The competitive soccer and athletic world continues to apply more pressure and increasing demands on young athletes. There’s continual pressure to practice more frequently and longer in duration to keep up with the demands so each athlete and team can reach their highest potential. Unfortunately, this can take a toll on athletes and not allow their bodies adequate time to recover.
The key message to take away: As an athlete, you should be using recovery techniques constantly throughout the season, as well as at the end of a season. So, what does it mean to recover? This refers to the actions and techniques used to maximize your body’s repair.
There are three main systems in our body that benefit from recovery: structural, hormonal, and neurological.
Active Recovery: Active recovery is usually classified as a low-intensity workout or workout that’s easier than your normal routine — a slow jog, an easy bike ride, stretching, etc. However you choose to unwind from a competition or season can be unique to you. Let’s discuss briefly the benefits of stretching and the differences between a dynamic stretch and static stretch.
A dynamic warmup and stretch allow the muscle tissue to warm up and lengthen simultaneously, whereas a static stretch is commonly known as a “hold and stretch.”
It’s suggested that a dynamic stretch be used prior to a workout or practice, and static stretching be used after your workout or practice. Identify areas that are less flexible than others. Target those areas, but don’t neglect the areas that aren’t currently “on fire” or causing pain.
Some athletes approach stretching as a waste of time or fail to do it because it hurts. Stretching might be somewhat uncomfortable on sore, tight muscles, but shouldn’t be painful. Allow enough time in your stretch to give your muscle the chance to become more elastic. A gentle static stretch can be held between 20-40 seconds.
Passive Rest: Rest is vital to your body’s recovery. It’s recommended that athletes get between 7-10 hours of sleep. This valuable time gives your body a chance to recover on many fronts. It allows muscle tissue to replenish needed nutrients and mend damaged tissue. It also allows time for mental recovery. An athlete who is well-rested will have more energy and better focus.
Hydration: We often think of hydrating prior to a game or practice or only when it’s hot outside. But staying hydrated during recovery is important so your body can adequately regulate the temperature of your body, transport nutrients throughout your body to give you energy, digest food, and so on. Approximately 90% of the fluid in your blood is water. Muscle contains approximately 75-80% water. An easy way to check if you’re hydrated is to monitor the color of your urine. The lighter the color, the more hydrated you are, and obviously the darker the color the less hydrated you are.
Nutrition: It takes time and effort to plan a healthy balanced diet. By replenishing these essential nutrients, our body has what it needs to repair damaged or depleted tissues after the season. Whether you’re trying to recover from a season, single game, or on the road without the benefit of your own stash of go-to snacks and food, planning ahead will ensure you have quality nutrients as well as comfortable food your body likes. At TOSH we have two sport dietitians from the TOSH Nutrition Program who can give you guidance individually, or as a team. Call them at 801-314-4038 for an appointment.
Psychological Rest: Young athletes have a lot to focus on during the season. Outside of soccer, they have their school work, friends, chores at home…all of which are very important. However, on top of that their focus goes to the field several days a week and the demands rise from there. Athletes need downtime to relax, refocus, and retool mentally. They’ll come back more focused and driven to take the next step in their skill level.
Hydrotherapy: Using ice baths initially after practices and games is beneficial to cool tissue and slow inflammation. A contrast bath, which is the use of alternating warm and cold water, can increase blood vessel pumping to move unwanted swelling from an area and bring needed nutrients to the area to mend damaged tissue.
Please consider taking the time to make recovery a priority in your training regimen. The idea that “more is better” isn’t always the case when dealing with young athletes who need adequate time to rest and recover physically and mentally.
If you have any questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 801-314-4111.
Remember, TOSH offers a free injury assessment clinic for athletes. If you’re dealing with an injury and need to be seen by a certified athletic trainer or physical therapist at TOSH, please call us today at 801-314-4040.